3 July 2010

Interview With Alice Wignall part 3

What makes a good feature?

First, something that you haven’t seen a million times everywhere else. Second, a concept or idea that makes you go, ‘Oh, that’s SO TRUE’ – something you have felt or thought but have never seen expressed before. Or perhaps something you’ve wanted to know more about and here’s someone telling you. And third good writing that presents it in an entertaining and concise way.

what top tips would you give in order to do this?

Keep reading and noticing things. An idea can come from anywhere. Notice what films and books are popular, how people are dressing, how they’re behaving – what does this tell us about us, now? Think about what’s going on around you. I actually keep a Word document on my computer and so when I have an idle thought like, ‘Isn’t it weird how all my friends are breaking up with their boyfriends at the moment?’ I write it down – and there’s a feature idea on ‘The New 30-Something Relationship Crisis’ or something!

What is the hardest thing about being a freelance journalist?

What you would expect: the uncertainty of it, the lack of human contact, keeping disciplined and the fact you’re not in the loop. A feature idea will be rejected and you’ll have no idea why and it can leave you feeling a bit insecure. But it’s great for the flexibility and the freedom.

How have social medias such as Facebook, Twitter and blogging helped you
as a journalist?

I have to say I don’t use social networking as much as some do, though Twitter is a great source of information and ideas. I know some journalists who have been helped MASSIVELY by Twitter – they network with editors like mad, pitch ideas and get commissioned on Twitter. Similarly, a great writer with a blog really can get noticed and start getting good commissions and eventually a whole new career.

Hope these have helped, I know they certainly have for me.

24 June 2010

My interview with Alice Wignall Part 2

What is a typical work day like for you?

Well, I’ve just started a full-time job as features director at ELLE so these days, I get to work about 10am, have a glance at the papers and then get on with whatever needs doing that day. Which will include some of: coming up with ideas for features or writers, commissioning ideas to journalists to write, editing them when they come in, having meetings with the editor-in-chief or other departments to make sure everyone knows what’s happening with various features and quite a lot of drinking tea and chatting.

When I was a freelancer working from home there was more tea and much less chatting but it was similar. I’d start around 9.30am, read the papers online, and then I’d be coming up with ideas to send to editors (in the hope they’d be commissioned) or working on a commission, which would involve research online or by interviewing experts, or maybe a celebrity interview, and then the writing. And then re-writing!

What do you think sets you apart from other journalists?

I don’t know if anything does! I think one thing I have that not many people do is that I have worked on magazines and newspapers about equally. They are normally quite separate and people normally stick to one or the other. But both have lessons to teach the other.

How do you a pitch an idea?

I’m lucky because having worked in media for about 10 years I know a lot of commissioning editors. So it’s generally a very friendly process – I just drop them an email and ask if they’d be interested in a piece on X or Y. If it’s an editor I don’t know, I might send an email introducing myself and asking if they’d like to see some ideas. They’ll almost always say yes, and then I will send some over.

what do you do if an idea gets rejected?

I don’t worry about it, because at least half the time they will be and usually it’s nothing to do with how good the idea was. If I think it’s a good one I might try another editor, or I’ll just forget about it and come up with another one.

What do you like to read?

Reading is so much part of my job that I don’t know if I could say I ‘like’ any of it anymore! I read quite a lot of blogs and online – there’s so much good writing being done. I like big satisfying articles too. I read the New Yorker most weeks and I like Prospect too (both big news-y magazines).

-Favourite Newspaper/Magazine?

I read The Guardian/Observer at home but that’s mainly out of habit. I think all newspapers have good things about them. My favourite magazine? Well, I guess I have to say ELLE since I work there but actually I do think it’s really good! My favourite is probably Vanity Fair though. It’s a brilliant mix of really frothy celebrity stuff and big intelligent articles.

What has been the hardest obstacle about your career to date?

Well, I’d say probably getting my first job. It was a very dispiriting time – being so ambitious to do something and feeling like you’re not getting the chance. But I would say now (and I think this is the same with all obstacles, in the end) is that everything I learnt in that time – from working at the market research place, just to the fact that I was resourceful enough to keep going – did stand me in really good stead. So I don’t think I’d change it. It can be easy to be envious of people who seem to have an easy time in their careers but when you think about it, it’s the hard times that make you work harder to prove yourself so ultimately they’re the times that you’ll improve the most!

Check out more next week

22 June 2010

My interview with Hermione Eyres

I caught up with one of my favorite writers Hermione Eyre to find out how she got in to the industry, her favorite reads, and top tips for budding journo's!

What made you wanted to pursue journalism?

Love of writing and reading. I was a literature student and never very into journalism until I left university (though at university I did once interview Seamus Heaney by fax!).

What journalists do you admire?

Kenneth Tynan, Francis Wyndham, AA Gill, Caitlin Moran, John Lahr, Elizabeth Kolbert (New Yorker writer), Stephen Bayley, Alice Rawsthorn, Suzy Menkes, Jonathan Meades, anyone who knows a lot and wears it lightly

How did you get into the industry?

Work experience at the Independent on Sunday

What 5 tips would you give an aspiring journalist?

Read the newspapers and magazines; keep on top of changes and redesigns in supplements; put your hand to anything you have an opportunity to do; try and file perfect copy the first time round; try and work out what your niche is (not something I’ve managed to do!)

What is a typical work day like for you?

Varies a lot – sometimes I get up, go straight to my desk in my pyjamas and don’t leave until 2am! (This happened yesterday as I had two pieces to file. Not ideal.) Other days I might be at home watching movies in preparation for interviewing an actor. My editor probably considers this shirking but I think it’s essential.

What do you think sets you apart from other journalists?

Ooh. Erm. I don’t know! I hope I can deliver quirky readable well-informed copy. That doesn’t set me apart because that’s what lots of journalists do, but perhaps fewer than you might think.

Who have you most enjoyed interviewing to date?

It has been wonderful to interview my heroes but it’s always a troubled process as the fan inside you wants to gush, but the journalist inside you knows you need to be more objective. To be honest the most fun people to interview are the monsters who are totally unaware of how they come across

What do you like to read most often?

I subscribe to The New Yorker, Vogue and the London Review of Books. It’s really worthwhile, I wish I had subscribed ages ago. I always read the Guardian on a Saturday and skim all the rest as often as I can when in the office. I used to read them all for free in Borders Starbucks, but now they have gone bust I feel guilty about having done that.

What has been the hardest obstacle about your career to date?

Finding the will, energy, application and time required to slave over ever single piece of work I write. And not having enough time with celebrities. Some of them – usually the ones who aren’t very famous yet - will try and get away with giving you 11 minute long interviews, which makes it very hard – not impossible – but very hard to write anything that goes deeper than superficial cr**p

What do you think makes a good interview?

To do as much research as you can. Then forget it all when you get into the interview and try and take them as you see them. Listen to their answers and respond to what you don’t understand or find interesting – don’t stick to your script of questions. With a shy person try to be encouraging and don’t give up needling away, with a ball breaker try to control the flow of conversation so they know who’s in charge.

What is the hardest thing about being a freelance journalist?

I only ever did it for 3 months but it must be tough paying the bills.

How have social medias such as Facebook, Twitter and blogging helped you as a journalist?

I once looked at one interviewee's personal photographs before I interviewed her. It was helpful to get a background idea of what kind of life she has. I felt a bit conflicted about whether it was good journalistic practise but I didn't use it to embarrass her or reveal any private details. She was under a different name but I still found her. Sometimes I put as my Facebook status, ‘I’m interviewing xxx, do you have any questions for them’ but the replies are rarely useful

21 June 2010

Sarah Young

At only 21, Sarah Young does it all DJ, Stylist, Writer and Presenter. I caught up with her to ask, Just how did you get your first media break?

"People tell me all the time you have to choose just one career, but I am working as a stylist, DJ and now writing for people like MTV. I also present, so as a presenter you have to know what you’re talking about. You have to understand the questions your asking, so being a writer is essential. Nowadays you have to be multi talented to succeed, and despite being dyslexic I’ve always had a way with words, it’s just another creative medium of how I express myself creatively.

My first break was when I was 17. I got invited to London fashion week, at the time I was organising a charity fashion show, so I took the opportunity to try and get some looks for the show. I just approached all these high profile fashion houses and designers and asked for free clothes. My ignorance at the time helped me, “Why wouldn’t these famous designers give me clothes?” I was arrogant and naive back then, and I learnt how to hustle, I learnt that you don’t get if you don’t ask.

I then started writing for online magazines, and began presenting for online TV channels. People thought I was mad at the time, like, online TV? What the hell? But I knew it was the future, now everyone is on new media. I then started my own online events/ fashion brand and then taught myself how to DJ, all whilst studying at the London College of Fashion. I started to appear in magazines and get great press and then started styling; it’s all about the hustle and hard work."

20 June 2010


Vanessa Paradis is a name that when heard can you make you go green. Not 'Eco Warrior' green, or Emerald green not even 'I wanna puke green', but, Green with envy. Yes at the mere mention of the name, Ladies around the world think how lucky this woman is to be with the man of all of our dreams MR JOHNNY DEPP

And as if that wasn't enough, she's gorgeous (gap tooth and all!) and has only gone and had a successful career as an actress, singer and Fashion Muse. Doesn't that just p*** you off!

Check out Godfrey Deeny's interview with Paradis in the UK July edition of Harper's Bazaar out now.

17 June 2010

My interview with Alice Wignall

Where can't you find Alice Wignall. If she's not busy writing for Stylist magazine, or for 'Sex and The not so single girl' in cosmo magazine, she's probably working in her new post as 'Features Director' at Elle Magazine I find out her top tips, best reads, and how she's achieved her sucess.

What made you want to pursue journalism?

I can’t really remember now! I think I was always interested in writing in a vague way and when I was growing up my mum worked at the local newspaper in York (not as a journalist, but in the research department). I would go in and help her on Saturdays or in the school holidays and loved the atmosphere of the paper so that probably planted the seed. When I was at university I worked on and eventually edited the student paper and that’s what decided me – when I graduated I moved to London to pursue a career in magazines.

Which journalists do you admire?

Ooh, lots! I think anyone who can communicate clearly and who has their own distinctive voice is great. I love Oliver Burkeman on The Guardian – his writing style is very understated but very compelling. I think Caitlin Moran on the Times is great – a lot of people try to do that informal style but it’s actually very hard to achieve without sounding forced. Robin Givhan on the Washington Post writes about fashion with real intelligence – she gives the subject the proper thought that it deserves (in my opinion!). I really like David Aaronovitch’s columns in the Times too; I tend to agree with him and he can get right to the heart of a subject.

How did you get into the industry?

I did the work experience at the local paper and on my student paper as I described above. Then I moved to London and did temp work for about two years while trying to break into magazines. I was really lucky on two counts: first, that for the last year of that time I was working for a market research agency that worked with media clients, so I got a chance to see the ‘business’ side of media. We even worked on the launch of Glamour and to see how a company like Conde Nast (who publish Glamour) put together the ideas for a new magazine, how they tried to target readers and appeal to advertisers gave me a whole new angle on the industry.
Second, I entered a writing competition in The Guardian (which doesn’t run any longer unfortunately) and though I didn’t win I was a runner up. I wrote a letter to the fashion editor there (who was one of the judges) asking for advice and she suggested I send some ideas to her. I wrote a couple of really little things for her off the back of that, but it meant that when I was applying for entry-level jobs on magazines I had some cuts to show.

What 5 tips would you give an aspiring journalist?

One – the very obvious one of doing work experience. It’s boring (and a bit hypocritical of me because I was very lucky in that I got a job without doing any). It can be hard to do if you don’t have much money, but even a two week stint somewhere can help. And most magazine intern jobs (for six months or so) pay something, even if it’s not very much. It’s just a good way to make contacts, make a good impression and it’s the best way to break into the industry.
Two – when you’re doing work experience/internships – be nice! It can be tedious and frustrating making tea and doing the filing when you know you’ve probably got more potential and good ideas than half the people on the team but I can’t tell you how much people you work with pick up on it if you’ve got a bad attitude. The media is a very closed world and people do ask each other for references and recommendations of which new people are good and you will do yourself so much damage if you get a bad reputation. So always be happy to do whatever is asked of you, and be enthusiastic to find out as much as you can (but don’t act like you think you’ve got a better idea about whatever it is, even if you’re sure you do!). Journalists are always overworked so if you prove yourself to be keen and reliable you’ll soon be asked to do more interesting things.
Three – read as much as you can. It’s an obvious point but in interviews you need to show that you are familiar with what a title has been doing recently, and what their rivals are up to as well. So make sure you know!
Four – read critically. Magazines and newspapers are businesses. The people who work on them think all the time about the reader, what he/she wants and how to give it to them, as well as how to keep the ‘brand’ of the publication strong. So do the same. Look at a magazine for example and think: ‘Why did they choose that celebrity for the cover? Why in that dress? Why those colours on the cover? Why those articles? What are they writing about and what do they leave out? Who are they trying to appeal to?’ Look at how newspapers and magazines try to differentiate themselves from each other, and in what ways.
Five – don’t give up. It is a hard industry to break into, but good people do make it in the end. The media is a really fast-moving industry and there are always opportunities.

Be sure to pop back next week for more of Alice's tips and industry advice!

PPA Awards 2010

So the PPA awards was held on Wednesday this week at Grovesnor hotel, Park lane in London. Esquires Rachel Cooke walked away with the writer of the year award 2010. Other winners include Empire magazine who won consumer magazine of the year.
Consumer magazine editor of the year went to Morgan Rees for Men's Health while editorial campaign of the year award went to Grazia magazine.And NME won consumer website of the year.

for full detials check out www.pressgazette.co.uk